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Get to know the System ROM for HP ProLiant Gen8 servers [CCEN]

Firmware plays a huge role in making a ProLiant a ProLiant.  It provides the foundation and support for many of HP’s most exciting and useful technologies.  It plays a critical part in the quality of our products.  The firmware, working together with the HP software stack, creates the ProLiant experience.

 

 

One of the big improvements for Gen8 ProLiant servers is consistency across the entire product line.  All Gen8 ProLiant servers will use a common, HP-developed code base for the System ROM and iLO.  There will no longer be a unique software/firmware stack for 100-series ProLiant servers.

 

This ensures consistent functionality, a consistent look, and a consistent customer experience for all Gen8 ProLiant servers ranging from entry level servers to the most advanced ProLiants.  There will be one consistent ProLiant experience.

 

This is a huge benefit for HP customers in terms of ease of use and improved quality across the entire product line.

 

Now let’s talk about quality, enhancing Quality was a major focus during the design and development of the Gen8 ProLiant servers.

 

HP strove to enhance quality in two very distinct areas:

  • First, HP sought to reduce server failures by increasing the amount and quality of validation.  We also greatly enhanced the validation process.  In addition, HP designed testability into the servers themselves.
  • Second, and just as important, HP designed numerous technologies into our Gen8 products to enhance serviceability.  When something does go wrong, whether that be a hardware failure, firmware/software issue, or user error, HP products and services are designed to allow root causing issues quickly and get customers back up and running as quickly as possible.  The System ROM includes numerous new technologies and functionality to enhance the serviceability of Gen8 ProLiant servers

 

Let’s move on and analyze the technologies of the Gen8 family:

  • HP Advanced Error Detection Technology
    • HP products have supported Memory Pre-failure Alert for many generations.  This technology is designed to notify users when a DIMM is at increased risk of receiving an uncorrectable memory error, which will bring the system down.  The idea is to proactively notify customers so that downtime can be scheduled to replace a degraded DIMM rather than having a DIMM fail and result in unplanned downtime.
    • With Gen8 servers, the algorithm for detecting when a DIMM is at increased risk of receiving an uncorrectable memory error has been greatly enhanced.  This algorithm was developed based on rigorous analysis of DIMM architectures and DIMM failures.
    • The result is that customer downtime is reduced because DIMMs are only replaced when truly at higher risk of receiving an uncorrectable memory error.
    • Early Video Progress Indicators
      • HP firmware engineers, working with HP hardware engineers, have designed in the ability to display video within a second of when the power button is pressed.  This is in contrast to previous generation servers which could take one or more minutes to receive video.
      • This has several major benefits.  It provides immediate feedback that the server is booting when the power button is pressed.  Most importantly, it provides an indication of where the server is in the boot process.  If the server were to hang, there will be information displayed on the screen which will be useful isolating the failure.  With previous generation servers, there would just be a “black screen”.
      • Early Fault Detection Messaging
        • Early Fault Detection Messaging is enabled by early video support.
        • Whereas previous generation servers had limited ability to provide user feedback for errors which prevented boot progress before video was available (typically a “black screen” with some LEDs possibly illuminated), Gen8 servers can provide detailed messages and HP Integrated Management Log entries for these issues.
        • Some examples of conditions that will prevent booting and would have resulted in a “black screen” on previous servers include:  mixing processors with different core counts, mixing UDIMMs and RDIMMs, installing Quad-Rank DIMMs in the incorrect slots, DIMM failures, and installing DIMMs into the incorrect slots for the installed processor.  In all of these cases, detailed and easy-to-understand messages will be displayed and logged to the IML.
        • We believe this functionality will result in a huge decrease in service issues, allow users to diagnose configuration errors themselves, and allow faster resolution of hardware failures by HP service.
        • Enhanced Logging for Failure Data to DIMMs
          • The HP System ROM logs information into the DIMMs themselves on DIMM failures or degradations.
          • This information is useful for HP service in interrogating DIMMs to determine the nature of the failure.  It also allows HP service to see “trends” in DIMM issues and take proactive steps to remediate issues.
          • Examples of data logged to the DIMMs on failure include the system type, the error type, the DIMM socket, the memory speed and voltage, and detailed memory controller status registers.
          • Active Health Systems Log Support
            • The HP System ROM participates, along with numerous other HP firmware and software deliverables, in logging information to the Active Health System (called AHS) log. 
            • The goal of AHS is to log information before any failure occurs that may be useful in the event of a server failure.  When provided to HP service, the AHS log assists HP in resolving issues much faster.
            • Examples of the information logged to the AHS log by the System ROM includes:  detailed hardware configuration, including DIMM types, processors, and PCI-e devices, system configuration settings, information on the DIMM training/configuration process, and processor and chipset status registers.
            • Agentless and Driverless Logging of Error Information
              • With previous generation ProLiant servers, certain error types were not logged to the IML if HP management drivers and agents were not loaded.
              • With Gen8 ProLiant servers, the System ROM and iLO work together to log detailed information about failures even if HP drivers and agents aren’t loaded. 
              • This provides easier isolation of failures when the HP drivers and agents are not loaded.
              • Other Technologies
                • Improved System ROM Security
                  • The Gen8 System ROM has been hardened to prevent accidental or malicious corruption of the System ROM.
                  • All modifications to the System ROM must be authenticated and HP System ROM images are digitally signed with
                  • HP ProLiant Gen8 servers will meet future government specifications for BIOS security.
  • HP SmartMemory
    • HP performs rigorous validation on HP supported memory to ensure it meets our stringent requirements.
    • All Gen8 HP DIMMs will be able to be validated as HP SmartMemory by the System ROM.
    • This allows the System ROM to enable certain additional functionality if DIMMs are verified as HP SmartMemory.  An example of this is allowing DIMMs to automatically run at higher than industry level frequencies for certain DIMM configurations.

 

This concludes this session of Coffee Coaching. We invite you to watch Kevin's biography. Thanks for your time, remember to drop your questions in our Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn assets.

Comments
Architekt(anon) | ‎05-14-2014 03:36 PM

The main question is how to decode AHS log ?

This possibility would stop all dubts related to AHS content...

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About the Author
Hector has marketing and communications expertise. With vast experience within the Enterprise Digital Marketing communications team at HP.
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